Thoughts on Mats Zuccarello torching the Rangers

Fan favorite let his feelings boil over

Over the weekend, former Ranger Mats Zuccarello interviewed with a Norwegian paper about Henrik Lundqvist, his former team, and how/why he chose Minnesota in free agency. Suffice it to say, he did not mince words. He unloaded on the Rangers, saying the way they are handling Henrik Lundqvist –his good friend– is “disrespectful” and that loyalty “doesn’t mean shit” with the Rangers.

There were a lot of hot takes going around, and this is certainly a topic we are going to discuss on the podcast (recording tonight!). But this is a good topic to get some thoughts out there.

1. First and foremost, let’s recognize the reality of the interview. Hank is one of Zucc’s closest friends, so I’m sure this is personal for him too. Also, Zucc very clearly did not want to leave New York. He took a hometown discount twice for the Rangers. He wanted to retire a Ranger. Obviously that was not in the cards.

2. There is a failure by Zucc to recognize the business of the game. Yes, Zucc wanted to be a Ranger. But the Rangers were rebuilding, hockey is a business, and Zuccarello was one of the few tradeable assets this club had. He had the unfortunate situation of being an expiring contract at the wrong time. To us and to the Rangers, it was a tough business decision. To him, it was personal, especially after watching others get traded away.

3. Without speculating too much, Zuccarello probably knows more about the Henrik Lundqvist situation than we do. The two are close. They talk. That said, it is odd to me that Zucc spoke freely about the situation. Lundqvist hasn’t said anything, neither has the organization. I don’t know how to read into that, other than his personal feelings boiling over. On the surface, this wasn’t his place to talk about it.

4. For those wondering why players don’t take hometown discounts, this is why. Teams very rarely remember what you did for them. It’s clear Zuccarello was hurt by the trade. We all remember what happened with Brian Leetch. We have yet to see what will happen with Hank. For those criticizing players for taking as much money as possible, or for leaving to go to a winning team, take a step back. When teams aren’t loyal, and have never had a history of being loyal, why should the players?

5. It is not Zuccarello’s business how the Rangers handled their three goalie situation. No one knows how this is going to play out. The only thing we know is that at some point the Rangers will need to choose between Igor Shesterkin and Alex Georgiev. Hank will not be in that conversation, and that decision point is coming sooner rather than later.

6. Zuccarello is 100% correct when he says that if Hank won a Cup in 2014 or 2015, we wouldn’t be having any of these conversations.

7. I think too much is being made of the “Minnesota only travels to New York once a year” quote. Zucc signed there because it sounds like they are the only team that went to five years and were in the Western Conference. It seems obvious visiting MSG more would be painful to Zucc.

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  • It happens to the best of them. Did the GREAT ONE, MESSIER, LEETCH,THE FLOWER all play for the RANGERS. When a player is well paid I do not feel sorry as much, but after EDDIE GOING BACK IN TIME, it cannot get any worse.

  • While we all talk about contract, GMs and players, we often forget these are humans who build loyalties and friendships. Many of these qualities are not inline with business decisions. Zucc has every right to feel a certain way and to express his feelings. He is choosing not to look at the business side of the equation – also his right.
    He was a good Ranger, but his time is gone and he needs to move on. Hank on the other hand is being a model player and Ranger. I am sure he is unhappy, but is not expressing his discontent to the media. That is a trait that the NYR ought to applaud.

    • Again, an excellent response to a well written article… I’m beginning to sense the world has a lot of decent people. Or are they just Ranger fans?! 😉

  • I totally forgot about him and then he has to out of a blue remind us of his existence through his foreign media arm. Anyway I’m not gonna relitigate his chapter.

    • Zuccarello has a “foreign media arm”? What exactly is that? Such a surprise that you’ve got smack to talk about yet another European Ranger.

  • If you perform to the level of your contract chances are you won’t get traded. People would have said the Rangers were out of their minds to sign a 31 year old to a 5 year $6M per year contract — especially one year later after he puts up a 37 point season in 65 games.

    Re: Hank … love the guy, but he’s at best a back up on rebuilding team. If we were still fighting for a SC and had a solid defense corps 1-6 everything might be different.

    Re: Loyalty and hometown discounts, yes that’s a two way street. Giving up 5-10% on salary to be able to play where you want to play isn’t a great sacrifice, especially when we’re talking about salaries in the millions. It gets you some cred, but it isn’t like you took a bullet for the team. When Hank took $8.5M per, that was a HUGE salary and % of the cap … 6+ years later, it still is. One thing we do know about the Rangers, it isn’t about the money … it’s about the Cap.

  • Some of these athletes are ridicules, they have the nerve to be pissed when they are making millions of dollars. What about us fans and how we lay out big money for tickets and merchandise for them and then most of them go to another team. In the sports world nobody owes anybody anything period. They get paid more in one year then most of us do in 20 years. The Rangers are one of the classes organization in the NHL so spare me the soap box routine about your POOR MILLIONAIRE FRIEND! This is a business and sometimes feelings get hurt when tough choices have to be mad.

    • “….athletes are ridicules (sic)”

      The word is “ridiculous”—like your command of your alleged native tongue. Sounds like you’ve got your crying all taken care of, though.

      • A good way to get people to stop wanting to read these columns and add to the discussion is to allow di*kheads like the resident military-hater (remember that column?) Far queue sarcastically rip into people over typos. Real gentlemanly of you, scumbag.

          • LOL, my feelings weren’t hurt, I wasn’t the one who wrote an answer contayngng anee tipos.

            Oddly enough, I agree with your hockey analyses most of the time.

            BTW, doesn’t your side discourage mocking men who dress like women (ie. isn’t your mascara joke un-pc?)

          • Not un-PC—no gender joke, I was calling you a sniffling emoboy.

            And while we are making uneasy peace with each other, I’m not anti-military at all. I prefer peace to war, I’m anti-racist, and would like a different prez in DC.

  • Zucc says he took a home town discount and got no loyalty in return? I’m calling BS on that one! He took a discount with NYR because that is where he wanted to play. He didn’t want to play anywhere else, so he took what the Rangers were willing to pay. I, personally, don’t think the thought of him helping the Rangers with the Cap ever entered his mind.The Rangers are a first class organization that treats their players better than, or as good as, any other org. in the league. Thats why he took the discount. Now, he’s crying sour grapes with his revisionist history.

    As for his comments on Hank: Zucc should mind his own business, if Hank is content to just let this play out, then he should just shut up.

    This changes things in my mind about Zucc. To talk crap about an organization that treated you so well while you were here, and then gripe because they made a business decision and traded you during a rebuild, is nonsense.

    • Joe

      This isn’t the first time Zucc bitc*ed about one of his buds. They didn’t resign Pouliot, he complained. We didn’t resigned Hags, again Zucc complained. He stated that anyone that’s his friend gets traded, and now this. Enough Mats!!!!!!

  • Thank you for this column. Hey, I love Zucc and Hank but it takes two sides to make a contract. Zucc chose to sign a NYR contract a few years ago at a “discount”. He weighed the $ and playing in NYC and made that decision. He then signed with the Wild when they offered him a very generous deal. Fine. No one forced him to sign in either situation. Hank got EVERYTHING in his contract: top salary/top # of years/no trade.

    In the end, the team and the player have to make the best decision for themselves. Giving away $ in a contract cap league can destroy a team’s roster. Unfortunately, teams cannot pay players for past performance. Yes, respect them with an honest conversation, but that is all that we owe them.

    When all the emotion dies down, both Zucc and Hank have been very well paid making millions of $, adored by fans, treated 1st class when they work out/travel with the team, and will probably have a “night” when they are honored by the Garden (Hank jersey retired). Yes they gave us 100%. It worked out fine for both parties…

    Zucc is frustrated. I get it. But we need to do what is right for the team. Sorry.

    • Well stated and total agreement.

      It’s not Zucc’s place to talk crap, this coming from a huge fan of his. Everyone has their day in the spot light, but father time never waits for anyone, and unfortunately he caught up to Hank too. He will be gone as well, like the best players who’s numbers are up in the rafters. If there are hard feelings, in time they will dissipate!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • Zucc seems to do a lot of complaining . He complained when Hagein was traded, he complained when Brassard was traded. He complained that he wasn’t getting an extension and complained about Lundqvist. Why doesn’t he just worry about himself and his team.

    • A very balanced sensible reply. I agree. If you take a hometown discount, unless you have a clause that gives you protection, be prepared to face the wrath of the “hockey market.” And, who knows… Zucc may have taken a discount to be with his friend or because he couldn’t get a better offer or whatever. But it wasn’t like he was doing it for the Rangers benefit. He was doing it because he wanted to be in New York, for whatever reason. So he in fact, did not get screwed. He got what he deserved.

  • I am disappointed that Zucc came out with negative commentary. He was my favorite Ranger player of recent vintage and despite him taking some shots that may be a bit cheap, I still love the guy.

    I know, and probably all of us could tell, that he loved playing in New York, That along with his enthusiasm and creative play made him a fan favorite.

    Hank obviously loves playing in New York too. So in that sense they are probably very much the same. While Zucc may have felt unbound now to reveal his disappointment in being traded, Hank has been a good soldier despite greatly reduced playing time. You know that it has to be eating at him, but he hasn’t made a peep about it. He’s stayed classy. I wish Zucc had too, but between his own trade and Hank’s situation he probably was feeling too emotional to let it slide.

    I’d still cheer him when the Wild come to town.

    • I use to come on here back in 2016-17 trying to air out some secrets. This little birdie who has a past with me got JT Miller drunk one night during after hours.

      Let’s just say that Zucc misses NYC/NYR customs, not so much love for the fans. So the whole disappointment in him is literally falling on deaf ears. My guess is that he is trying to cause anarchy within the club. These guys are tight with all the behind scene people. It’s possible that the equipment and nutrition staffs are starting to feel a certain way against their bosses. It obvious doesn’t mean that they’ll quit their jobs but the respect can start to drop which could affect the workspace.

  • I can appreciate how Zucc feels about how the Rangers handled his situation. He took a major discount, was a fan favorite, and then was traded. It made sense to trade him when we went all in on the rebuild, but you still can’t blame the guy. He was all heart and gave it all for the team and then was jettisoned.

    Zucc sees his buddy Hank’s situation thru the lens of his bitterness with his situation, but I don’t think that is fair. Unlike Zucc, Hank drove a very hard bargain when negotiating his current contract. Not only was he paid almost 30% above the next highest goalie but he held out for ridiculous term as well. And Sather gave it to him because Glen didn’t care about the back end of the King’s contract because he knew he’d be gone by then and he wanted to win the Cup. Hank is the greatest Ranger ever IMHO and a great icon as well but the Rangers don’t owe him the net at this point in his career if it makes more sense to go with Shesty & Georgi, as it seems to me it does.

    Not all athletes get a storybook finish. The Rangers are a class organization and many of their alumni attest over and over. Management’s top priority has to be putting the best team they can on ice.

    • I can only imagine the uproar in NY if Sather didn’t sign Hank. I don’t blame Slats one bit on this particular contract.

      • Your missing the point. Glen could have signed him for less term, which would be huge right now, but he didn’t care.

        • You mean Hank himself told you that? lol

          That’s the way these contracts are structured. They get front loaded so the player gets his money quicker, they get extended a year or two so the team lowers the cap hit.

          Hank was in a position to demand pretty much anything … and he did. Money, term and a NMC. This is on Hank. Slats had virtually no leverage here —- the fans (US) would have tarred and feathered him if he didn’t make Hank happy; most fans thought he walked on water and would deliver us the Cup

  • Can you fans teach me about this blind pride/faith towards mutli million dollar sport’s clubs? I could care less if Mess went to the bathroom at center ice.

    Lol seriously some of you guy’s treat this like a gang. Zucc did some tagging and now fans want to throw up some gang signs for the disrespect. It reminded me of when I use to go to MSG with my old man. Dude’s who don’t even know how to skate acting like they’re essential. Giving Dolan $$ and following the same team for 20+ years D.O.E.S N.O.T M.E.A.N a thing. It’s a shame to see people living through athletes who don’t care about us.

    Zuccs post NYR life has been a bit of a sad story. Dallas core had a hand in roster adjustments and flipping him into a Pavelski. It sounded like he enjoyed his time down there. Imo I think he’s pulling a Hags and finesse his way to a new team. The fans have been rough on him so this news probably puts him over the top rope in disgust.

    If Hank is smart than he’s taking notes of all of this. If a buyout happens than Boston would be a good fit for him. If he thinks he can be a starter soon than that place would give him a good chance to win. I personally think that he’ll want to stay in the Metro. He would also want to come back to MSG to win as much as possible. Philly and a reunion with Hayes and AV seems very real. That place would give him the MSG vibes of being in a loud city with fans all over. He’ll have to take a back seat, but as more of 50/50 backup. If the there was ever a place in the West than maybe LVG? He should have bounced two years ago. This news of Zucc will only help tarnish his rep from the try hard fans who never cradled a puck.

  • This is an excellent article. The point is hockey is first and foremost a business. Same thing happens in the private sector. If you work for a company, after a while the value you add does not go up in tune with your salary increases. You end up retiring or you are given a package to retire earlier. Hank’s skills actually seemed at their peak when he signed his $9+ million/year contract. I think it was very foolish of Sather to give his such a generous contract based on past performance. If Sather had been thinking, he would have factored in future performance/longevity, but he did not because, well, he does not think strategically enough. His thinking is bring in brand names and keep them for their past/present value. That has been the whole problem with the Rangers over the past years prior to Jeff Gorton’s era.

    • Well stayed Joey. The players play the Hockey game and the owners/GM ‘s play the Cap game. The Combined goal being to win
      the cup. The question for Ranger fans being do you want to keep these great players that are past their prime to show loyalty and generosity (which Zucc and Hank have been shown) or win the Cup. Sorry Zucc but we’ll take the Cup. There’s no i in Stanley Cup!!!

    • Sorry for the typo- “Well stated Joey!! (Not well stayed). I know how some individuals on this site take typos as a sign of ignorance. Lol.

  • We love our NY Rangers and we idolize our players. We have some issues separating the player from the person. Hank is a great player and a great person. Zucc was the same.

    It is difficult to move on from your “home” for anyone.
    Zucc feels he has to vent. The less attention we give him the better.

  • Staal rightly gets credit from writers & fans for physical sacrifice for the organization, and stays on despite being a terrible hockey player with a terrible contract. Zuccarello takes a puck to the temple and nearly loses his life: he was hospitalized and unable to speak for the first few days after his injury. Takes less money to stay in NY, and subsequently gets traded. But somehow his physical sacrifice to the Rangers’ org is ignored by fans and writers.

    I guess we can tell who the bootlickers are around here. Seriously lame how short memory is for most of you here.

  • Ranger fans appreciate the time both Zuccarello and Lundqvist brought to New York. They both gave their all and it showed in their game. However, Zuc fails to realize both are millionaires. Both didn’t look like desirable prospects when they joined the Rangers. But they both developed far greater than expected. When their contracts were up, did they think of the team then? Or were they interested in getting their due? There comes a time when all players become too expensive, thus, they are moved. Lundqvist knew the writing was on the wall—the team was moving on without him. Did he think of the team then? He could have saved the team money by moving to a cup ready team. And what about Zuc, what was he looking for after being traded to resign? Zuc wants it both ways. Grow up. Players are commodities and are valued as such.


  • Zuc could of stayed……he simply wanted more money then what he was worth.
    I like Zuc but he is not a 6 million dollar player……

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